Graduation Speech by Emilie Max member of the Student Association Council
Ladies and gentlemen, good evening!
The Student Council had a whole speech prepared for this occasion. However, we have received a letter of motivation from a prospective student, which we deemed worth sharing with you tonight.
“Dear Directors Gaeta and Clapham,
I am writing to apply to the LL.M. programme of the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. I recently graduated from the University of Solferino, where I was born and raised. I discovered your programme through a group of students who visited my hometown last May. Upon overhearing them, I immediately became intrigued by the use of terms like “functional theory of occupation” in casual conversations, and decided to ask them for more information about the LL.M. and their experience.
It seems that the Academy constitutes a highly stimulating academic environment. The class discussions and the knowledge students were able to acquire is synchronized with the real world developments and made for interesting teaching sessions The students reassured me that the poet in me should not go disheartened, for even during long lectures a beautiful moon would not go unnoticed, not to mention that even law becomes more whimsical through the words of Milan Kundera. Naturally, if all the above should not suffice, there will always be the litters of coffee and the tons of Swiss chocolate. When I asked further questions about the LL.M., I was assured that I would be taught all relevant areas of international law, and constantly challenge my knowledge.
I am eager to learn from professors as outstanding as those of the Academy. Any law student dreams upon hearing the names of Bianchi, Chétail, Gaeta, Clapham or Sassòli, However, students have warned me that too much teaching and research can have some strange side effects. Professors sometimes compare Al Qaeda to KFC, become obsessed with non-state actors and polar bears or design psychedelic power point presentations. I look forward to finding out the rest myself, should you accept me into the LL.M. programme.
I am also curious to discover a revolutionary, and apparently quite successful teaching method: TAs. With their help, information given in class falls into place, becomes more structured and students’ chances in their exam session are radically improved. What stroke me the most from students’ accounts was how TAs always went above and beyond their job descriptions and provided emotional support, comic relief, homemade cakes and real fake diplomas when the students’ fatigue and stress became too evident to conceal.
Students especially spoke about the strengthening of relationships throughout the year, and they were not referring only to that between them and librarians. They told me about ethnic dinners, where students would cook food from their home country for everyone else, and which would often end up in dancing parties. They underlined the importance of weekly barbecues during summer, without which no LL.M. thesis would have been written. They went on and on about hiking trips to the Salève, excursions to Switzerland, movie nights and lake swimming sessions. No story could convey better what I could see by my own eyes; how a group of 36 individuals, went on, within the course of a year, from being international law geeks to friends for life.
I am looking forwarding to benefiting from my fellow classmates, as much as those students did. They all brought with them to Geneva not only their incredible knowledge, but also their unique personalities. Some became parents during the year, or survived the programme while taking care of their child. Others dressed exactly like their professors in the hope that it would help their learning process. Some cooked delicious cakes, while others taught the rest how to play cards. Despite the summa divisio between vegetarians and carnivores, all appreciated and respected each other. For fear of clichés, the students did not want to use the word “family”, but upon meeting them, I will. By applying to this programme, I express not greater wish but to become part of this family.
I am convinced I can immensely benefit from an LL.M. at the Academy. I also hope this bring a useful contribution to the programme and maybe, who knows, one day deliver the graduation speech.
A hopeful student.
Speech witten by Emilie Max and Ioanna Voudouri